July 27, 2007

VUMC among select few to see NIH funds grow

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(photo courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry)

VUMC among select few to see NIH funds grow

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is one of only a handful of institutions with an increase in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health in fiscal year 2006 (FY06).

At a time when most of last year's top-ranked medical schools experienced grant funding decreases of between $5 million and $20 million, VUMC's total grant funding increased from $241.2 million to $245.6 million. The dollar amount increase paralleled an increase in number of grants awarded — from 586 in FY05 to 603 in FY06.

VUMC is now 12th in the nation in NIH grant funding; last year, total funding put VUMC at No. 15 in the nation.

Establishing where Vanderbilt stands in comparison to other U.S. medical schools, however, has become more complicated than in previous years.

The NIH no longer publishes rankings of individual schools or departments, leaving the institutions to extract the data from funding databases organized by state.

The NIH updates these data continuously, rather than once per year.

Using the most current data available, which does not include contracts, VUMC's Office of Research calculated grant funding at each of the institutions ranked in the top 25 in the prior fiscal year (FY05).

The calculation included only those grants awarded to medical schools and their associated departments, excluding grants to affiliated programs like Pharmacy, Allied Health, Dentistry and Public Health.

“This rise in NIH funding relative to our peers speaks volumes about the excellence of our faculty,” said Jeffrey R. Balser, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research.

“In a time when NIH funding is extraordinarily competitive, our investigators are beating the odds, and are doing so at a rate that exceeds many of the country's finest medical centers.

“Supporting our faculty as they continue to face this challenge will continue to be our top priority, as we know that many of the NIH institute pay-lines will remain very low, at least through fiscal year 2008.”

To advance in the rankings, Vanderbilt passed Baylor College of Medicine and Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. Baylor, with $221.8 million in FY06 NIH grant funding, dropped from 13th to 16th, and Columbia, with $242.8 million in FY06, moved from 14th to 13th.

Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of Michigan Medical School now rank 10th and 11th with $274.6 million and $270.4 million, respectively.

Both schools experienced increases in funding compared to FY05.

“The ability of the Medical Center to continue to increase its NIH funding levels while overall NIH funding is flat is an indication of the incredible respect of our faculty by their colleagues,” said Steven Gabbe, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine.

“The collaborative environment at Vanderbilt, as well as the significant impact made by our faculty on scientific discovery, is well recognized throughout the country.”

“One of the hallmarks of Vanderbilt Medical Center is the strength of its research enterprise, and our continuing increase in NIH grant funding, even as many of our colleague institutions are seeing decreases, is a great tribute to our faculty and the quality of the work they are doing,” said Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs.

“I take great pride in this. All of us should.”